Scrubbing it: 9th Edition's Design

  • #1


    Intro
    So it has come to this. In one and a half months 9th Edition will replace 8th in Standard and thanks to everyone's favorite user on Salvation, Rancored_Elf (thanks for everything), we already have the full spoiler. If one thing I promised myself from 9th has become reality, then the set will shake things up. Not only will it impact the T2 format (well, this is pretty obvious) but also Extended and how Core Sets will be in the future.

    Eighth Edition wasn't a highly anticipated set by the players due to the removal of Counterspell, Painlands, Disenchant, and others. 8th was treated like a stepchild for most of that time. It also had, overall, a pretty low power level. It succeeded in keeping the game simple for new players, but as soon as such a new player got used to how powerful cards are supposed to be, Eighth was abandoned by even them.

    This article will analyze 9th Edition and will try to conclude if 9th's design and playability will make it a success or if it has to share the fate of 8th.


    Keeping it Simple
    I think Wizards' plan to simplify the game for beginners in the Core Set is familiar for most of the readers. This is in theory a very good move as Magic is, at heart, a complicated game. But 7th and 8th Editions overdid that a bit too much. Although it simplified the game for new players, it has created a divide between them and the competitive players, which just made it harder to transfer over if you wanted to advance your gameplay.

    Removing upkeep-phase effects from the Base Set was clearly a step into the wrong direction. Upkeep is one of the most basic things in Magic, being a time window for advantages as well as drawbacks. The more or less accidental inclusion of a single upkeep card in 8th, Phyrexian Arena, seems to have taught Wizards a lesson.

    No, new players aren't as dim as estimated. Their potential is constantly misinterpreted. While it doesn't make sense to teach a block-specific mechanic for a single card, game basics like upkeep should be taught as early as possible.

    Speaking of basics, what do you think is one of the most basic creature mechanics that was neither featured in 7th nor 8th? Correct, it's trample. Trample shows up constantly in Green and occasionally in other colors as well (mostly Red) in every major set in Magic's history. If a newer player starts to slowly switch to expert sets, he will be confronted with trample even with common cards.

    To make up for the loss of trample, 7th and 8th featured the "new trample" on cards like Thorn Elemental. This new trample caused various rules issues for new players. But avoiding rules issues was one of the major reasons why trample was pulled. Something went wrong, didn't it?

    Trample is back in the Core with 9th. It even gets a reminder text which hopefully simplifies trample a bit.

    Wizards also made a mistake in this set with its teaching principles: Paladin En-Vec. As I said before, a single card isn't sufficient to teach a game principle, but the Paladin is the only creature with protection in 9th. Although it is a nice idea to reintroduce protection in the core, IMHO it still is a bit more complicated than trample and also less common. A single card isn't enough, even if it has two instances of protection.


    Equip or be Dead
    Speaking of complicated, Timmy's favorite card type since Creature is also included in 9th Edition. Yes, equipment is where it belongs. But why did I call it complicated? It has been around for two years already and it's not such a big deal, is it?

    Well, yes and no. To new players it might seem odd if something that sticks to a creature like a local enchantment doesn't hit the grave when the creature dies, which might lead to some frustrating losses caused by the lack of rules knowledge, but that's also part of the game. Players need to learn that knowledge of the rules is necessary in order to be a good player as soon as possible.

    Moving both included equipments (Loxodon Warhammer and Vulshok Morningstar) up the ladder of rarity should also help to simplify Equipment a little, as newer players will encounter them at a lesser rate. The rarity move of Warhammer also ensures that it won't spoil a second limited format as it did in Mirrodin Block almost whenever it was encountered. A fun fact of the Warhammer that gets overshadowed by its equipment status is that it's another rare with trample in the set.

    Another step of the complication level will be the choice of the Equip reminder text. Will it be the longer Mirrodin version or the shortened version which is used at the moment? The already-known image of 9th Edition Loxodon Warhammer isn't very informative on that matter, as the Warhammer is a pretty wordy rare card.

    Overall it's a good move by R&D to include Equipment in 9th. It probably follow us for the rest of our Magic lives and should be taught early.


    Here comes the Pain
    One thing that can't be ignored is the fact that the last two blocks were a horror trip for anyone who liked to play more than two colors. Since the departure of the Painlands when 8th Edition replaced 7th, Standard was developing into a mono-colored environment more and more. Onslaught kept the spirit alive while it was legal with probably the best lands for two-color play available, but when Onslaught left as well, it was practically impossible to make a deck based on more than one color successful. The consequence was mono-colored decks ruling the Standard environment and the only way to play more than one color was to play Green.

    Let's face it; all the solutions Wizards gave us for this dilemma in the last two years are barely useful. The Invasion-CIPT-Lands can't be played in any aggressive decks, and are even crippling for control decks. The Painstones of Mirrodin should be counted as mana enhancements rather than colorfixers, and the tap-lands from Kamigawa, which originated in Tempest, are probably the incarnation of irony in itself. Guess why Tempest was ruled by mono-colored decks (it wasn't its land destruction theme alone). Even in Ice Age, when extremely similar lands were printed, the format tended towards monocolor.

    Thank Heavens; our beloved Painlands are back, and they have come in full force. Yes, some have expected it, some couldn't believe it, but we have all 10 Painlands including the enemy-colored ones back in business. This could be valued as a dead giveaway of Ravnica being a set with multicolor theme and the practical impossibility of designing better multicolor enablers than the painlands. Not to mention the fact that functional reprints released in Ravnica would kill the Extended format (full reprints are out of discussion for Ravnica as places like Yavimaya or Adarkar don't exist there).

    The problem is that enemy colors are supposed to be harder to access than allied color combinations. This also makes the principles of the colors a bit foggier for newbs. A thing that I personally value highly is that if you want to understand the game, you should understand the colors first. The inclusion of all ten pains makes this a little bit harder.

    Still I'm very excited that the times of mono-color is over. I would have liked if the problem of enemy color painlands could have been solved in another way. But this is a necessary evil that should lead to a very interesting T2 format in the following two years.

    Another thing to remark with this inclusion of all pains in 9th is that this makes all of them Extended legal for another period, even after the next rotation (in 3 years) when 7th and Apocalypse leave (and therefore all the pains would become illegal if not included in 9th).


    Power to the People
    One specific thing that 9th Edition will not lack: playable cards. While 8th Edition had a very small range of cards that would show up in tournament decks, 9th Edition doesn't look like that. Most notable in this category of instant playables are Leonin Skyhunter, Hypnotic Specter, Cruel Edict, Kird Ape, Jester's Cap, Rathi Dragon, Llanowar Elves, Quicksand, and Verdant Force to go along with the 10 Painlands already mentioned and the tournament cards that already were in 8th (Wrath of God etc.)

    Well, I won't break all these cards down as we have two articles that specifically handle 9th Edition in the rotating constructed formats, but you see where this leads. I'm pretty excited about this list since it has some very high profile cards in it and many mid-range cards that can be included in any deck that uses their color and can shine in a specific moment. "Team player" cards if you like.

    This is a major step towards a successful 9th Edition.


    No Way Hose
    The choice of color hosers for 9th Edition is also very interesting. As a reminder, here's the list of them:
    White: Circle of Protection: Black and Circle of Protection: Red
    Blue: Baleful Stare and Withering Gaze
    Black: Execute and Slay
    Red: Flashfires and Boiling Seas
    Green: River Bear and Anaconda

    The most obvious thing about these hosers is the number of them. R&D reduced the number of hosers to the minimum of the hoser-pair per color. Thats not a big change for Blue, Red and Green, but Black loses its Eastern and Western Paladins. White is hit hardest; after the loss of its Paladin Pair, it also loses its CoP cycle. Odds are that the CoPs were removed entirely from the set and the Black and Red one were put in later as the hoser-pair for White. With Story Circle, the all-time underplayed CoPs for White, Blue and Green can be removed easily anyways.

    Another thing that R&D accomplished with these hosers is that they are easier to distinguish from the rest of the set. The symmetrical approach to the hosers is nice and the replacement of Boil with Boiling Seas will give all blue mages at least a little smile. But this leads to another problem with the hosers.

    The definition of color hosers by R&D provides that the they should only be playable in extreme situations when one color warps the entire metagame. All color hosers should have a similar power level.

    Well, the symetrical hosers in 9th have a nice optical effect, but they also break these rules. CoP: Red and Flashfires were always useful Sideboard cards as they can easily devastate the opponent playing the specific color, while cards like Anaconda and Execute are barely useful or even used due to their lack of power or far better solutions in the same environment. Who plays Execute in the Sideboard if he can have one of three or more other cards that do the same thing to a wider range of creatures?

    An article by Mark Rosewater once stated the problem R&D had with the Green card hosing black in 6th Edition and the only possible solution to it was Warthog, a card that barely itches black players as it is the creature-killer No.1. So what the hell is Anaconda doing in 9th? Don't forget that there was also Compost in 7th.

    This guess might seem a bit cocky, but Ravnica, a color heavy set, is coming up, and I hope and look forward to correcting this imbalance of power of the hosers during this set. Yes, I predict that Ravnica will have a double cycle of color hosers and many of these hosers will find their way into 10th Edition.


    Making Johnny Happy
    Johnny, the most misunderstood player type, has found a real joy in 9th Edition. As you see, Johnny isn't about winning every game. For the most time, he isn't necessarily about winning at all. Johnny's desire is to win in a cool way. Hes all about outsmarting the opponent and pulling cool tricks out of his hat. So what does 9th Edition have in his bag for little Johnny? Lots of cool stuff.

    First to mention here is of course Battle of Wits. This card might also start popping up on the tournament scene with some people carrying 4 Deckboxes for their 250 card monstrosities. This card is always cool to explore and I personally have waited to play Battle along with Arc-Slogger.

    Up next is Form of the Dragon showcasing a very good top-down design. I'm a bit sorry to see it back, as the Moat part of the card is just something I don't like to see on a Red card in the core set. It is possible that it shows up in tournaments with another round for bad Form, but probably won't as at the moment there isn't too much going for it.

    The last card I want to focus on is Booby Trap which, other than its name, also draws attention as a card that can hit the opponent for 10 damage. The downside that renders this card nearly unplayable is the presence of Sensei's Divining Top. Still it will find some place in the hearts of some newer players and casual playgroups.


    Time to say goodbye
    It seems like 9th is shaping up very well, but there are also some cards to note that weren't included and should be said farewell. The start probably has to be our beloved Birds of Paradise. With 9th replacing 8th in August, the Birds won't be Standard legal for the first time ever. Sure, they come back in Ravnica for another two year period, but when Ravnica leaves Standard, that will probably be it for the Birds, never to return thanks to their nature as a one mana green flyer.

    As we are on five colors at the moment, City of Brass will also be missed but the ten painlands make that spot up pretty much. Two other big tournament cards caused an instant outcry by the players on their removal from the base set: Bribery and Plow Under. These two will surely be missed.

    Other cards that many players are sorry to lose include Johnny's best friend in 8th Edition, Intruder Alarm, Timmy's Pal Thorn Elemental and the go-to-guy of Black creature decks, Phyrexian Plaguelord. Farewell; hope to see you soon.


    Themes and Balances
    What's the main thing players are complaining about in 9th Edition? Right, the lack of Blue playables. The lack of big time playables and instant carddraw makes 9th one of the weakest sets for Blue ever. This matches the long-term plan of R&D stepping down Blue a notch or two and make it a lesser played color for some time.

    But Blue isn't the only color that got stepped down a notch. Green got hit deeply too. Green was on an all time high since Odyssey with cards like Ravenous Baloth, Troll Ascetic, and Tooth and Nail. Green also benefitted from the earlier-discussed lack of useful dual lands and the time of Affinity with green as the new king of artifact hate.

    Green doesn't get hit as hard as Blue but it gets hit relatively hard. It loses Plow Under, Choke, Birds, and even mediocre playables like Lure, Vernal Bloom, and Gaea's Herald. It even is stepped down from one of its main abilities with only Regeneration itself left to represent it. Sure it gains Llanowar Elves and Verdant Force, but that's about it.

    On the other hand, Black and White seem to be on a high again. Black gains Hypnotic Specter, Sengir Vampire, Cruel Edict and keeps its useful cards from 8th, namely Persecute, Grave Pact, and Phyrexian Arena. With the inclusion of Mortivore and Will-o'-the-Wisp Black is on the other side of the regeneration trade. Being rid of Karma is just the icing on the cake.

    White seems to make a huge leap forward. It doesn't lose anything, keeps Wrath of God, Worship, Sacred Ground, and Glorious Anthem. Its quality of creatures in the Core was never this high with Leonin Skyhunter, Paladin en-Vec, and Weathered Wayfarer. Gift of Estates and Blinking Spirit also cannot go unmentioned

    Last but not least Red stays pretty much at the same level. With Rathi Dragon and Wildfire replacing Two-Headed Dragon/Lava Hounds and Inferno/Obliterate, Red might pack some more punch in the tournament scene. Kird Ape and Thundermare might also find its home in some decks. The inclusion of Threaten to the core is also a personal thumbs up.


    Summarize This
    Let's talk straight. If you're a Blue player, you will probably curse R&D for this set, but even you should not be able to ignore that this set is overall very well designed and scrub friendly and advances the game.

    For my part: I'm very happy that 9th replaces 8th as it is overall a better set and features more playables for Standard.



    Credits:
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    Last edited by Binary: 7/11/2005 9:53:29 PM
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  • #2
    I like how you broke this down in so many different ways. Good article, you showed a little bit of everything that 9th has to offer to many different players. Good job.
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  • #3
    I LOVED the article title "Equip or be Dead", as it's a reference to an awesome iron maiden song Be Quick or Be Dead. If it's not supposed to refer to that, ignore this comment.
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  • #4
    No, its supposed to refer to that song, good job Smile
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  • #5
    Festering Goblin should also be worth mentioning for Black.

    As for blue, well, it's the same song as usual. Blue players cry to get mana from their tears.
    Blue kept Mana Leak , a very decent 2-mana counter to accompany Hinder , and Rewind , which can be used. I'd also expect Trade Routes to see more play for its interactions in Kamigawa, once Mirrodin-block rotates out. Thieving Magpie is not that ugly either in my eyes.
    It also gained :
    - Clone , which is going to be a major tool for it, particularly once Mirrodin leaves.
    - Fleeting Image : a great boon for U/x control.
    So, although I know that Blue "purists" are going to whine as usual, I will probably be very happy to play it in U/x coming decks in 3 months or so and am personally satisfied with what it has to offer in Ninth.
    I fail to see in your article what Blue lost from 8th to justify
    What's the main thing players are complaining about in 9th Edition? Right, the lack of Blue playables. The lack of big time playables and instant carddraw makes 9th one of the weakest sets for Blue ever. This matches the long-term plan of R&D stepping down Blue a notch or two and make it a lesser played color for some time.
    Do you miss Inspiration that badly ? I actually think that Plagiarize may turn out to be better, depending on the environment.
  • #6
    ooh plagarize + howling mine. I know casual. But Fun.
  • #7
    One thing I think you failed to mention, although I don't think it will become a staple card like Plow Under, is Traumatize. A pretty good card which can see some play in tournament decks...

    But I loved the article, and it was VERY well done. It was just that little tiny blip that I think couldve used some mentioning. Like others have said, a very well-balanced article with many different points of analysis... Very very well done. It had me captivated. (seriously)
  • #8
    Quote from Puzzle »
    Festering Goblin should also be worth mentioning for Black.

    As for blue, well, it's the same song as usual. Blue players cry to get mana from their tears.
    Blue kept Mana Leak , a very decent 2-mana counter to accompany Hinder , and Rewind , which can be used. I'd also expect Trade Routes to see more play for its interactions in Kamigawa, once Mirrodin-block rotates out. Thieving Magpie is not that ugly either in my eyes.
    It also gained :
    - Clone , which is going to be a major tool for it, particularly once Mirrodin leaves.
    - Fleeting Image : a great boon for U/x control.
    So, although I know that Blue "purists" are going to whine as usual, I will probably be very happy to play it in U/x coming decks in 3 months or so and am personally satisfied with what it has to offer in Ninth.
    I fail to see in your article what Blue lost from 8th to justify Do you miss Inspiration that badly ? I actually think that Plagiarize may turn out to be better, depending on the environment.


    Blue also lost Bribery and Hibernation. Also, once Mirrodin block rotates in October, blue won't have ANY instant-speed card drawing. Blue got nerfed, whether you can see it or not.

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  • #9
    In my opinion, without Haunting Echoes or any other way to really abuse Tramautize in the format, Tramautize is just a really good mill card. Unless it suddenly makes mill decks good (Which is possible but I doubt it) then I don't know what deck it would be played in.

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  • #10
    It's worth mentioning that Karma (an uncommon in 8th) also includes an upkeep effect along side Phyrexian Arena. It's weird to see upkeep explained in reminder text.
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  • #11
    Quote from Annorax »
    Blue also lost Bribery and Hibernation. Also, once Mirrodin block rotates in October, blue won't have ANY instant-speed card drawing. Blue got nerfed, whether you can see it or not.


    Without looking through the set, I can think of at least two instant blue card drawers from Kami Block, Gifts Ungiven, and Murmurs from Beyond. Then there's also Evermind, Reach Through Mists, Peer Through Depths and Sift Through Sands. Yep, no instant speed card drawing at all here. Plus whatever we get in Ravnica.
  • #12
    Talking about Divinning Top killing Booby Trap: Actually, I think that the top is exactly what will make Booby Trap possibly see some sideboard play. Why? Well, the top seems to go to the top of the library rather often.
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  • #13
    I think we can see Ravnica dealing a lot with Black, becuase black recieved the weakest hosers and seemed to up some of blacks more playable cards like Hypnotic Specter (despite the fact it can't come down very quickly), Cruel Edict, and the like. Plus, White was hosed by losing Karma from the base set, therefor making black playable again.

    Blue was destroyed in card drawing (and to the poster who said they have a lot in Kamigawa, the other guy was talking 8th edition only, not standard all together.) They recieved two powerful hoser-card drawers, but they lost instand card draw. Being that Thirst for Knowledge is very specific about it's discard, any 2U instant that said "Draw three cards, discard a card." would be perfect for the base set for blue as a staple card drawing spell.

    I think using the Portal boil was a very good choice for Wizards, because they know they are destroying blue's power, but to weaken blue by allowing an enemy color to have an instant Hoser they can play at Blue's weakest moments (tapping out) just hurts (especially when losing Spectral Shift). Instant Land destruction, especially of the possiblity of more than one, should never be.

    Green lost many powerful cards, but they are gaining birds back in Ravnica. And with BoP back, this set for will have THE BEST mana-production and color-fixing I've in a long time for Standard. 9th brings us Llanawar Elves AND Utopia Tree (which many must not have seen), while Ravnica tosses Birds of Paradise in our laps too. Green is going to stay good, even with Sakura-Tribe Elder still around.

    White, I just stand stop to say how good white just got. The inclusion of Soul Warden and Paladin-en-Vec will change white weenie. With Isamaru and Savanah lions still round, plus the very good reprinting of Leonin Skyhunter, we can expect to see white step it up a notch and possibly become the powerful white wheenie from Mirage/Tempest Type 2 again! (Please bring back a Shadow-like mechanic to abue jitte!)
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  • #14
    Sweet Article. I have to agree with most of Wizards Ideas in 9th edition. I like how you pointed all the importants things out.

    Blue does take one in 9th editon but It had some better card this time. And The hosing had really got vamped too.

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  • #15
    I know that blue got nerfed to some degree, but did they overdue it? If you look at 9th in a vacum, ignoring all other sets/environments, is blue weaker than the other colors? Or at the same power level? I am still holding out that it is still good enough to compare to the other colors.

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  • #16
    Quote from Qasur »
    and to the poster who said they have a lot in Kamigawa, the other guy was talking 8th edition only, not standard all together
    Here's what Annorax said: "Also, once Mirrodin block rotates in October, blue won't have ANY instant-speed card drawing." He was definitely talking about Standard.
    Also, black's hosers are the weakest? Did you miss which green hosers are in altogether? Confused
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  • #17
    Quote from Qasur »
    I think we can see Ravnica dealing a lot with Black, becuase black recieved the weakest hosers and seemed to up some of blacks more playable cards like Hypnotic Specter (despite the fact it can't come down very quickly), Cruel Edict, and the like. Plus, White was hosed by losing Karma from the base set, therefor making black playable again.


    Cruel Edict? When you're talking about T2, I hope you dont think it has any good there...? Rolleyes
    It maybe destroys a big Kodama, but otherwise - Meh, it just sucks. There are way better removal spells in Standard - When Mirrodin rotates (and you talked about Ravnica, so I think you meant that), there it MAY see some play, but overall, there aren't much untouchable Creatures (esp. when Troll rotates) so, well, the edict is just bad...

    @Topic : Upkeep triggers exist in 8th on Karma, Hammer of Bogardan and Arena...
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  • #18
    I wonder how Black is going to deal with Anaconda Rolleyes Even Spreading Algae was better...

    With Blue this bad, maybe there will be a Standard without blue. 'Bout time.
  • #19
    Quote from RickCorgan »
    Here's what Annorax said: "Also, once Mirrodin block rotates in October, blue won't have ANY instant-speed card drawing." He was definitely talking about Standard.
    Also, black's hosers are the weakest? Did you miss which green hosers are in altogether? Confused


    What I meant was GOOD instant-speed card drawing. Read between the lines, I'm cryptic for a number of reasons.

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  • #20
    I agree that blue got the screw job. But I'm glad. As blue can take a little while out of the T2 scene, instead of dominating it.
  • #21
    i'm glad that multi-colour will be big again soon with the painlands. especially with cards like persecute around
  • #22
    Quote from Kevin H »
    I agree that blue got the screw job. But I'm glad. As blue can take a little while out of the T2 scene, instead of dominating it.


    Blue dominating Standard? How,when and with which deck?

    Odyssey,7th,Onslaught: Blue as a support color in Tog, Madness and Wake.

    Onslaught, 8th, Mirrodim: Blue for card drawing and Somber hoverguard in affinity, support color in uW Control.

    Mirrodim, 8th, Kamigawa: Blue Control has a short reign after the bannings, drops to tier1.5 or tier2 after massive hate is used and decks like MGA sees the light of day.

    I would hardly say that that track record the last few years is worth getting excited about...
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  • #23
    Quote from Magnus Raven »
    Blue dominating Standard? How,when and with which deck?

    Odyssey,7th,Onslaught: Blue as a support color in Tog, Madness and Wake.

    Onslaught, 8th, Mirrodim: Blue for card drawing and Somber hoverguard in affinity, support color in uW Control.

    Mirrodim, 8th, Kamigawa: Blue Control has a short reign after the bannings, drops to tier1.5 or tier2 after massive hate is used and decks like MGA sees the light of day.

    I would hardly say that that track record the last few years is worth getting excited about...

    So Blue is included in most dominant decks of the last four years?

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  • #24
    Wizards seem to have got there wish in this set and finally nerfed blue. Blue looses the 1 decent card it got in exchange for the loss of Counterspelletc. in 8th, Bribery and with the tron still in 9th and tooth still around for a while blue is in for a serious pain of a time. Blue also lost 1 of its most effective sideboard cards hibernation not to mention the loss of instant speed card draw, Inspiration might not be fantastic but its a lot better in monoblue than kamigawa's Gifts Ungiven or Murmurs from Beyond(Plagiarise is not instant card draw!), when mirrodin rotates out even assuming blue can survive the loss of Vedalken Shackles ravnica is going to have to provide a good replacement for Thirst for Knowledge or MUC will be well and truly dead.

    When alls said and done 9th gives blue absolutely nothing(Battle of Wits is fun and Clone is cool but neither are good), the biggest gains for blue are from the removal of both Boil and Choke(Boiling Seas isn't close to a boil and River Bear is laughable compared to choke). Also useful is the return of the painlands which allows blue to more easily splash. But when you get right down to it only 2 new cards in 9th will possibly see play in traditional MUC decks and neither of them are blue, they are Jester's Cap which is a nice way to rape tooth decks(taking 3 tooth targets is much better than a cranial extraction for tooth n nail) and Quicksand which is a nice colourless land for any mono colour deck but is especially in giving blue removal against the ever evil 1st turn Slith Firewalker which are rampant at the moment.


    Machius proudly supports R_E's right to Rumour!
    Quote from Orange Mage
    In general, Machius is right on the button. You should follow his line of thinking.
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